Diego de Landa's one-man inquisition perfectly illustrates the power of the Intolerance Meme, an idea that evolved in the Jewish religion a few centuries before the birth of Jesus, and was taken up with a vengeance by Christians in the third and fourth centuries AD. The Intolerance Meme declares that not only is Yahweh the only god, but in addition, anyone who worships other gods is committing a sin. The Intolerance Meme justifies all sorts of atrocities in Yahweh's name: Murder, slavery, forced conversion, suppression and destruction of other religions, racism, and many other immoral acts.Oh, man, I thought, yet another radical atheist with an axe to grind against religion. Indeed, James' brief biography shows that he has been greatly influenced by Richard "The Root of All Evil" Dawkins.
James' more extensive writings on the "Intolerance Meme" can be found in his book, The Religion Virus. If you are interested in reading his own novel take on early foundational Judaism, check out this excerpt. (Sample quote: "[Abraham and Moses] believed in, and sometimes worshipped, the gods Baal, Asherah, Anat, and many others.").
Now I (and countless other Jewish bloggers) have written on some of the disturbing aspects of Torah law, not to mention genocidal atrocities such as those committed by the Israelites against the Canaanites (although these may never have actually occurred.)
Nevertheless, let's be honest here: it isn't just the "intolerant" monotheistic religions of the West that are guilty of such behavior. There are long shopping lists of barbarism committed by Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, plus the unparalleled crimes against humanity carried out by atheist anti-religionists such as Stalin and Pol Pot. James naively suggests that the Jews invented intolerance, but this is not an issue of religion or secularism, it is an issue of power and control. Religion is just a very convenient means by which such control can be exerted on others.
Fortunately, the Pharisaic progenitors of Rabbinic Judaism abandoned strict application of Torah law long ago - even when the Sanhedrin was still extant. I certainly do not desire that Israel return to a theocracy, but if it does I would hope that - regardless of indications to the contrary by many of the so-called gedolim of today - our evolved moral sensibilities would take precedence over some misguided nostalgia for intolerant fundamentalism.